Friday, December 25, 2015

puppet love

The other evening we were just relaxing, watching some nonsense on TV when Mary said, “You know they are not together anymore.”
Her conversation can leave me bewildered at times because her segues, or lack of same, don’t always register as the words pass through my brain scanning synapses.

I glanced up, first at her to make sure she had actually spoken to me (I have very selective hearing), and then up at the TV to confirm in my mind that the comment she just made was rooted in what was happening there. 

“You know they were never really ‘together.’  She was always more into him than he was into her.”  I responded with little enthusiasm.  I’m not one to analyze and critisize  anyone else’s life choices.

“No you’re wrong.” I must have pushed her fight mode button because she was suddenly all combative over this trivial matter.  “She always loved him and he was a jerk for trying to avoid her.” 

“So you admit that they were never a couple because he was always trying to stay out of her clutches.” 

“Well they would have been a very happy couple if he had only cooperated.” She could sense the argument tilting in my direction. I delivered the coup de gras by pointing out to her that they were not real. 

“You know, of course, that they are puppets, don’t you?” I twisted the knife just a bit by adding that he had once been someone’s green sock and she was a concoction of pink foam rubber. 

“Are the Brewers playing?”  She asked as a way of confusing me and thus claiming victory in our little skirmish.  Remember what I said about her segues.  Mary considers any argument won if she can change the subject on the fly, leaving me scratching my head, wondering how we got to this point.  

I was left with the realization that we are really pathetic, relying on the love life  of a couple of Muppets for conversation.

Friday, December 18, 2015

excerpt 5

It doesn’t matter the season, Mary will always find a reason to shop.  And if she has a coupon it would take a small army of ninjas to keep her out of the store.  So when she says we are going to Kohls because “I have a coupon for 30% off and a store credit for $10, and I think I might get another 10% if I use another charge card,” you know it’s going to be a long day.

I sometimes will wait in the car, napping, while she seeks out the treasures  the magic coupons’ promise.  But this time I felt brave and courageous and decided to test my tolerance for “shopping,” which means I would have to find some way to amuse myself by playing a game much like “hide and seek” but with no actual hiding and no serious seeking.  It goes like this:  she says “I am going to the kids toys department.”  That simple declaration is both a command for me to follow and a challenge for me to see how quickly and unobtrusively I can disappear before she notices that I have once again slipped away.  I can generally manage a good ten minutes of freedom before she realizes that I am not nipping at her heels like a little puppy. This is the “hiding” part of our game.  Then she pulls out her Annoying Immature “Husband Finder,” otherwise known as a cellphone, and calls me to determine, first, my whereabouts and then the proper punishment for this latest offense. I think the use of the cellphone is cheating, but since I am the only one playing, I can’t complain to the refs.

“ Where are you now? “ Her voice had that certain threatening edge to it, so I know I’m losing points rapidly.  “You were supposed to be helping me in the kids’ toys department but as usual , you wandered off and got lost.”

“I’m not lost. I know exactly where I am.” I had wandered into the kitchen area and was enjoying lusting after the shiny Cuisenarts and Keuregs and all the optional accessories that went with them.  I love kitchen stores, almost as much as a good hardware store with all the doodads and gizmos on display that you didn’t know you needed but now can’t live without.

“Well, try not to get lost on your way to the toy department.  I need your help carrying this stuff.”  She wasn’t scolding me yet.  She was a clever opponent, waiting until I was loaded down with packages before ripping me a new one. I took my time getting to where I was supposed to be, browsing through the personal electronics but stopped short of making the right turn down the aisle that would take me to the kids toys.  I hesitated because walking down that aisle involved walking past the Ladies Lingerie Department on my left side with the kids’ toys on my right.  I get vaguely uneasy when passing ladies lingerie, feeling as though I’m a peeping pervert invading the privacy of all the women who will buy and wear all those lacy and frilly foofoos to cover up their hoohas.  Since the lingerie was in such close proximity to the little boy’s toys, I like to think of that area as the Big Boys’ Toys Department.

When I arrived  at the designated department, Mary had a bunch of the usual plastic junk gathered in a pile in one corner.  She says she wanted my opinion on which stuff I liked best (as if I’m going to play with that junk).  I just sort of pointed a finger in the general direction of the plastic wasteland and mumbled dire predictions that my  grandchildren would end up being buried under that slag heap. 

After Mary tied me to the leash she carries with her for those times when I show signs of wandering off, we loaded up the cart with a rather precarious pile of soon to be junk and headed for the elevator, nearly taking out 4 feet of hanging foofoos as we tried to get there. While waiting for the slowest elevator in the western hemisphere to travel all of 12’ between floors, we started a conversation with another glassy- eyed pair of worn out grandparents who were inspecting the haul in our cart and recommending other toys that they had purchased somewhere along the way.  Critiques and reports on the varying quality of our choices followed.  As loaded to the ceiling as we were, they matched us box for box. We bowed to their supremacy in the “Grandparents as Spoilers Of Their Grandkids” contest.  We should have handicapped the contest, however, since they had numerous grandkids to help pump up their score, while we had the two little girls and one big boy to do battle with.  Of course, if you figured in the Cuteness and Smartness categories, we would have humiliated them, walking away with the coveted trophy.

Did I mention that we were on the slowest elevator in the western hemisphere?  Actually, it wasn’t the elevator’s fault. Once we got on the elevator it was a good 5 minutes before any one of the four of us present in that cramped space thought to push the button with the upward pointing arrow.  So if seniors like us were using the elevator to ferry seniors from one floor to the next all day, and if you figure in the typical length of the conversations that took place in said elevator, my quick calculations had us as the third users of the elevator that day.  It was near 3:30 PM.  That elevator had one cushy job.

Leaving Kohls, Mary had the bright idea that we ought to stop at Barnes and Nobel to look for some books for you know who. I was good with that idea because I love bookstores, and I love my grandkids. That was a match made in heaven.  For the next hour I was totally absorbed in looking at all those books and practicing my disappearing skills.  There was no way she was going to drag me out of there before I had my fill of words collected into sentences, then paragraphs and chapters and finally books. So many books, so few eyes. That rejuvenating visit to a bibliophile’s version of heaven
gave me the strength I needed to get us home after a long and tiring day.  By the time we turned into the condo complex we call home, it was fully dark outside. But that was perfect.  Or so we thought. You see, we were both looking forward to driving into our driveway while admiring all those Christmas lights I had worked so hard on.  Before we knew it we had driven totally around the circle drive without seeing our lights. We drove right past our place with no light display to ooh and aah over. 

“ Didn’t you turn on the lights this morning like we discussed?”

“I thought you did,” I responded.

“And I thought you did,” she answered. 

It took two more attempts to find our condo in the dark, but eventually we succeeded.  

A natural conclusion to a typical day in the continuing saga of “Bob and Mary’s excellent adventure.

excerpt 4

The saga continues with this excerpt from the next chapter of Bob and Mary’s Excellent Adventure.
With all the running around we’ve been doing, there comes a time to replenish the fuel in the car or risk the embarrassing walk to the gas station with that red container that fairly shouts, “this fool can’t be trusted to remember that the gas gauge on the dashboard ain’t kidding.” and knowing that everyone driving by knows what a shmuck you are for running out of gas. So rather than suffer that ignominy, I headed for the nearest gas station for the necessary fill up.
By now we all know how deficient I am when it comes to dealing with any kind of tech torture devised by man. But come on, a gas pump hardly qualifies as first tier technology meant to thwart every attempt by man to use it -that is, a normal man. But this is me holding the hose and wondering why the pump isn’t cooperating. I tried everything I could think of to prod that pump into performing its only function. And,yes, I put the credit card in the slot the right way. Rather than asking Mary what was wrong (talk about embarrassing; no manly man would ever stoop so low as to ask his wife how to operate a gas pump) I decided to go to the source and deal man to man with the station attendant.
I knew immediately upon entering that this might be a more difficult process than I originally thought. The odor inside was decidedly not of this part of the world, but something that might be considered etherial over there. I have a very bad sense of smell, but even I was overwhelmed. But the incense fouling the atmosphere was only the first clue that communication might be problematic. The turban on the attendant’s head was a dead give away that some delicate international diplomacy was going to be required.
“Can you turn pump 4 on for me? I can’t get it to work.” I started the communication dance rolling.
“You want receipt?” (supply your own indecipherable accent here)
“ No, I don’t need a receipt since I haven’t bought anything yet.” I tried to keep the sarcasm out of my voice, but I was having some difficulty doing so.
“I give you receipt.” He handed over a receipt for $12, figuring that I would be satisfied with someone else’s receipt.

“No, no, i don’t want a receipt, especially not someone else’s. What I would really like is for you to turn the pump on so I can pump some gas and thereby qualify for one of your wonderful receipts.” The exasperation I was feeling was gradually bubbling to the surface and would soon come spewing out, uncontrolled by my increasing lack of patience.

“Yes,Yes, you qualify. I give you receipt.” He was nearly jumping for joy at solving my problem.

What I wanted to say at that point to that moron, Mary won’t allow me to print here.
I just threw up my hands, turned toward the exit door, and headed for the relative safety of the real world outside. As I approached the end of my Twilight Zone episode, I was mumbling imprecations aimed at Middle Eastern oil.
We were so traumatized by the experience (at least I was. Mary tends to laugh at me when I teeter on the edge sanity.) that we put requiring fuel on the bottom of the list, figuring there were at least 4 more gas stations along the way that would certainly accept my credit card and spit out a receipt without my having to deal with another gas station attendant.
The only thing that would make me recover and feel good again was some shopping. Yeah, I like to shop with Mary. Especially when I know that if I behave myself, she will reward my good behavior with something I want. I don’t have to beg much for it either.

We headed for Kohls.

excerpt 3

Another excerpt from the saga known as Bob and Mary's Excellent Adventure
So after Mary giving me another lesson on technology and its use, I finally realized that for your phone to work as intended by the manufacturer, you have to turn it on. Who knew?
Our itinerary (or was it my stomach) called for lunch, but we had to make a very important stop first to take care of some financial hooha that Mary insisted was crucial to our continued solvency. She tried to tell me what she was intending to do, but typical for me, the message barely made it to my ears before it disappeared in the fog of numbers involved. All I know 
Is that the transaction involved some kind of balance between 2 accounts that had to resolved. Mary has always handled the family finances and has done a great job, so I just keep my nose out of it. The more numbers involved, the less interested I become. So when she told me that the money transfer from one account to another was for all of 35 cents, I didn't really care. As long as I get fed somewhere along the way, she can make as many transfers as she wants.
After working up an appetite handling all that high finance, we headed for one of favorite restaurants. However, we couldn't get anywhere near the place. The parking lot was jammed. All those old Buicks, Chevys, and other old cheap domestic cars that were scraping against each other, made me certain that in that restaurant that was supposed to feed me some good food, was a hustler trying to feed a bunch of baloney to a packed house of Seniors. Give them a free meal and they will listen to anything.
We opted for the Olive Garden instead, not because we could get a free meal there without having to listen to a sales pitch, but because we still had some money left on a gift card we got from someone somewhere. We were halfway through our salad when a long parade of very long young men appeared, all dressed alike and heading for the room right behind us. Being the quick and clever guy I am, I realized that we were going to share the remainder of our lunch with a basketball team. I picked out one of the passing giants and inquired where they from and what they were doing here. The fine young gentleman addressed me as "Sir" and then identified his cohort as the Grambling State basketball team here to play Marquette later that day. I replied that I could wish them luck, but I wouldn't mean it. He smiled politely as he eased away from any further contact with me.
Meanwhile, at the table next to us, an elderly man was talking on his phone, asking whoever was on the other end of the call what college team has a big "G" on its uniform. Mary, who was not eavesdropping on his conversation (she claims), told him which team it was and then set about having a ten minute conversation with him. He was a retired teacher, so you know how that went. In those ten minutes she learned his entire life story and gained another friend.
It was an interesting lunch which was about to get more interesting. We were ready to pay the check, having given our waiter the gift card that brought us there. He returned with the card with a sad and embarrassed look and informed us that the card was no good anymore, but not because it had run out of money, but because the Olive Garden restaurant had been recently sold and they were no longer honoring the former owners gift cards. Well, that was unacceptable to Mary, so she sought an audience with the manager, got her to accept the card and got her to honor the remaining $7 on the card as our waiter's tip.
Mary does stuff like that all the time. She's a good one to take to lunch if you're hoping to scare up a free meal.
As we were leaving the restaurant, I, wearing my UW cap and jacket, stuck my head in the door to the Grambling State's lunch room, tipped my hat and said loudly enough so at least some of them could hear, "GO BADGERS!" I heard a few halfhearted boos in return.
Now let's go do some shopping.

excerpt 2

We shall continue with excerpts from the next chapter in the saga known as "Bob and Mary's Excellent Adventure.' The previous post got us started on this road to try to understand what the hell is going on with us.
Wednesdays are typically spent going to appointments, running errands, shopping, taking care of business that keeps a middle class existence humming along. Unfortunately, Mary and i seem to be living in an alternate universe where the life lines are sometimes twisted or knotted and the timelines are skewed a fraction off center so that there can be no parallel lines converging on that dot on the horizon, causing us to constantly view a lopsided version of the real world. If there is an unusual happening floating through the ether looking for a place to land, it will variably latch onto our unsuspecting alternate universe, making us ask the question, "Why us?"
This past Wednesday started out with the case of the missing trash can and went further sideways with each passing minute. Wednesday is the day we head to the "big city" to take care of most of the week's away-from-home chores as well as admit a couple of our hedonistic activities. I get my weekly massage, and Mary gets her hair done. That sounds simple enough on the surface, but accomplishing those two simple tasks can take an inordinate amount of time, planning, and cooperation among Mary's hair stylist, my massage therapist, and the both of us. Complicating the planning is the fact that we are only using one car to get from here to there and back to here and there.
So, we have to time it so Mary can drop me off (she usually drives) at the massage therapist's (I hate it when someone refers to it as the massage "parlor." It just sounds too creepy and somehow illegitimate and possibly illegal) and still get to her beauty "parlor" (doesn't the use of parlor in this instance bring back memories of the fifties and early sixties when women actually went there expecting to get beautiful as the name implies?). Now they go to a stylist who works on them in a salon. That means that I generally have 15-20 minutes to kill before I get therapies and a half hour or more to wait after I'm finished being tenderized. Mary and I stay in touch by texting or calling throughout these activities so we both know when she will pick me up. Cell phones are great, aren't they? What would we do without them?
I'll tell you what we would do without all that technology bulging in our pockets. We would spend the rest of the day wondering where she or he has gotten off to without checking in with the worried spouse. Or maybe we would just not pick up the phone when it rings or chirps or sings the Hallelujah Chorus. Maybe we misunderstood the time that she who was driving said she would be there to get me. There was no excuse for her making me wait longer than expected, and she did say she would text me when she was on her way. So, I waited patiently in the "quiet room" in that damned massage parlor, wondering if she forgot about me and went shopping. "Out of sight, out of mind" is her operating mantra. I'm sitting there in a soft marshmellowy rocking chair, trying to stay awake so I could be angry with her for ignoring me if I ever saw her again.
Just when I was about to dig my cell phone out of my pocket (you can ask why didn't I call or text her during that time - -uh, she said she was going to text me, no me text her. I always obey the rules), she strolled into my hideout in the "quiet room" looking for me and ruining a perfectly good dream about a gang of nymphs who had kidnapped and hauled me off into their lavishly appointed lair in the deep dark woods and were about to have their way with me.
Of course here first instinct was to blame me for not coming out to greet her when she arrived. "Why didn't you answer my text when I told you that I was on the way. I even tried emailing and calling you to let you know I was coming."
"I was waiting for your text, but you forgot about me." I was whining and trying to appear put out by her being late, but oh those nymphs were getting warmed up. I hate to be ill mannered when nymphs are involved.
I didn't forget about you. I even got there early and was waiting out in the parking lot for the past 15 minutes, wondering what was taking you so long." She wasn't being overly nasty with me as she had every right to be. Maybe she was having a dream of her own while waiting for me. I bet her dream I won't go there. her dreams probably have too much PG stuff anyways to be be interesting.
"Let me see your phone for a second." She asked politely so I had to give it to her. "You dummy! No wonder you didn't my messages. Your phone is turned off." She didn't seem particularly surprised by that fact because she knows that i don't know how to turn the damn thing on or off. It just happens that way sometimes. Shit happens, especially when it involves technology and my ignorance of all things that ooze out of that particular hole in my alternate universe, making my stepping into a puddle of the sticky, sinking stuff inevitable. No good can come from technology stuff. Use it your own risk.

Now let's go get some lunch...

Monday, December 14, 2015

excerpt 1

excerpts from the latest chapter of the continuing saga known as Bob and Mary’s Excellent Adventure......................................

Mary is easily spooked by things that go bump in the night.  So when she came back into the bedroom early the other morning on tiptoes, gliding as silently as the fog outside, and whispered in her best stage whisper, I knew that  something had triggered her into spooked mode.

“Bob, wake up.  Wake up. I think someone stole our trash can.  I can’t see it at the end of the driveway.”  

Wednesday is our trash pickup day so we put the 2 containers at the end of the drive on Tuesday evening so the collection agent ( they hate being called garbage collectors) can hoist them with the robotic arms on his truck into the truck’s holding tank, and then deposit the plastic bin back in its place at the curb.  Our hardworking Supervisor of Detritus Removal ( they hate being called garbage collectors) always arrives very early in the morning, so one of Mary’s self assigned tasks on Wednesday morning is to check the fullness (pessimist) or emptyness (optimist) status of those bins and then take the appropriate action of either taking them back to their hiding place in the garage or spend the rest of the morning wondering why the lazy SOB didn’t do his job the way she expected.

I pulled the bedcovers over my head hoping that would make her disappear in the resultant darkness.  No such luck.  I was trapped into a response by her sense of urgency. 

My first question for her was, “why are you sneaking around and whispering?
If the thief absconded with one of our garbage bins, he’s not likely to be hanging around hoping we’ll fill it up for him again before he leaves.”

“I don’t know why.  It just seemed to be the thing to do. Now stop being such a lazy scaredy cat and find the guy and make him give us or trash bin back.” She hissed at me. 

So as I reluctantly rolled over with great sighing and gasping, making as big a show of my displeasure as I cold so she would know that I really didn’t care if we  were now one can short of a load, I had an epithany.  I knew where the disappearing bin was.

“Did you actually go out to look if the bin was there, or did you rely on your limited view of the driveway from the kitchen window to determine if the bin was indeed missing or just hiding from your view?” I was grumbling doing my best Old-Man- Who- Was- Just --Awakened- For- No- Good- Reason act.

“Well, no. I’m not about to go out there alone in case he’s still there cleaning out the garage while we sit in here letting him take whatever he wants.”
I pressed on, “Has it occurred to you that just because you can’t see it, it is not there?
This one of those times when you have to rely on faith to carry you through.”

While this conversation was going on, we were making slow but steady progress, she huddled close to my back hiding as best she could in case there was any shooting, toward the door that would lead us outside and to the logical explanation for this vexing

Once we got outside where we cold survey the entire crime scene, it was obvious what had happened.   Mary was forced to apologize for her hasty conclusion that something bad had happened.  More importantly she had to apologize for not remembering that we have some of the finest neighbors anyone could hope for.  Neighbors who routinely go out of their way to help you.  I don’t know for certain that this is what happened, but my gut reaction is that Arlene, one of those neighbors who will always take the opportunity to do the little kindnesses without any fanfare whenever there is something that needs to be done, was out early walking her little dog, Sam, as she does every morning, when she encountered our trash bin either blocking the sidewalk or perhaps out in the street, and simply pulled it out of harms way, and dragged it back to our garage, where it was out of sight from our kitchen window.

I went back to bed to retrieve my lost sleep and when I woke later I wasn’t sure that I hadn’t dreamt the whole thing.  I actually had to go out to the garage to convince myself that I wasn’t dreaming.

Monday, December 07, 2015

small town America

Ah, small town America. Is there anything more wholesome, healthy (mind wise, that is) and corny than a small town celebration for whatever reason the the Chamber of  Commerce committee can conjure up.  You know there has to be a committee, which is usually headed by the wife of the mayor, or some such local poohbah whom everybody knows and likes and with whom everyone can feel important when given the chance to stand next her or him, preferably on a stage with a microphone in hand. I want to be both all inclusive and politically correct here here which means that in this new era of legal gay marriage, the wife of the mayor or the poohbah chosen to head the committee could very well be a man or woman. That’s surprisingly progressive for a small town, since around here, gays and other minorities and ethnicities are fairly rare and are generally looked upon as exotic creatures until you get to know them and realize they are as into life in small town America as you are.

But I digress.  The whole point of this exercise is to laud the organizers of this year’s Midnight Madness here in the stereotypical small town America we mentioned at the top of this treatise. 
It seems that every suggested outdoor and indoor activity that anyone had ever heard about or seen at similar events in other small towns was given serious consideration before being given serious inclusion in the evening’s program. Even second or third hand  knowledge of the event, without actual first hand knowledge of how the event was staged was worthy of a pat on the back.  For those unable to convince the committee that theirs was a winner that citizens would flock to and relive the results repeatedly until next year's reiteration of the experience  got only an” attaboy”and “nice try” and “see you next year.”

So what we're all the activities that drew the happy crowds of fun seekers to this small town for the festivities?  Normally, since the Midnight Madness event is held at this time year, there is the reasonable expectation of snow. Many of the fun activities are snow dependent and the lack of snow required an adjustment. The horse drawn sleigh rides became wagon rides. The sled dog pull had the dogs slogging through mud. The lake as of now is unfrozen so the ice skating area was unavailable. Somehow the decorated sled contest seemed out of place with no snow to glide on. But even though this would have been more fun with the snow, nobody seemed to mind being outside and not freezing their butts off.

Santa was, of course, on hand to make it an official Christmas celebration. But he dampened the spirit of the occasion by allowing only professional photos to be taken.  By one of his elves naturally.  I think old Santa had a nice little lucrative racket going there. He did do the obligatory Santa wave during the parade though so the kids were happy.

No one who wandered around town went home without gaining a few extra pounds. Every restaurant and bar pushed food at anyone within reach. Even the staunchest dieter would have to give in to the smorgasbord arrayed before them. You can resume dieting tomorrow. Tonight enjoy.
The marketplace craft fair was the perfect place to pick up the usual trotchkes that you would only give to your least favorite aunt or cousin. The sellers were doing a brisk business, so there must be a lot of disliked relatives out there who will be disappointed again this year.

What would a civic celebration be without fireworks.  I know, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  But there is something about seeing your town’s fireworks that makes all those oohs and ahs genuine and prideful. The fireworks only lasted for 10 minutes (that stuff is expensive), but they were sufficiently loud and bright that we could see them from our condo across the lake. 

Ok, so you caught me.  How could I see the fireworks from my condo across the lake if I was in town participating in the festivities?  Even though we were enjoying a string of unseasonably warm temperatures, it was still too cold for my skinny butt to be out there, so I made it all up.

she's back

That huge boulder that has been on our shoulders, holding us down and making our lives miserable for the past 6 months or more, has become nothing more than gravel beneath our feet after Mary's visit to her cardiologist on Thursday. Last March Mary saw that same cardiologist for her yearly follow up after having open heart surgery--a bypass of a blocked artery-- 5 or so years ago. At that March visit the doc ordered a stress test to make sure that nothing new had developed. Of course that stress test showed some kind of abnormality, so he decided she should undergo a catheterization to find out what that abnormality was. That stress test was the catalyst for all that happened afterwards.
The evening of the day that she had the stress test, she began having vertigo attacks that became so severe that I had to call for an ambulance to take her to the emergency room. At the emergency room, instead of vertigo, she was diagnosed with a gallbladder that was severely compromised and would have to be removed. So on Thursday, May 19th, her birthday, she had her gallbladder removed. Then the complications started. Her gallbladder had caused an infection to take hold In her pancreas. The resulting pancreatitis was sever enough to kill her if it wasn't controlled. Mary was one very sick patient. She remained in the hospital for the whole month of June until the infection was controlled and they sent her home for the rest of her recovery.
She was still very sick for the month of July and I had to take a more active roll in her recovery at home, while she struggled to get past the pain. I was flushing the drain tubes she still had in her abdomen daily and trying to keep both our spirits up. The toughest thing I had to do for her was get her to eat. She had absolutely no interest in any kind of food. I couldn't tempt her with anything. Not even her absolute favorite bad-for-you food, a chili dog, could get her appetite up. Having lost over 30lbs during her illness, she had to start eating solid food regularly to help regain some of that weight and by doing so, regain some of her strength, or the doctor was going to put her back in the hospital and feed her intravenously. She certainly didn't want that to happen, so gradually she began eating another bite or two each day.

The lost summer was only one of the depressing things that we were coping with. My health was problematic during this whole ordeal. Coping with PD is difficult enough under normal conditions, but very difficult when a load of stress is thrown into the mix. Add the anxiety that I was feeling about our future and you have the perfect storm.

Though it felt at times that we would never feel healthy and normal again, gradually, day by day, we saw tangible improvement--one day the drain tubes came out, then she was able to walk a little farther and get up and down the stairs, she started eating more and regained some of her strength. When she started communicating again with friends we knew she was mostly back.
But, hold on, remember that stress test that started this downward slide back in May? Mary still had that heart issue to deal with. Knowing that she still had another medical issue ahead, kept us from getting too excited about her day to day recovery from pancreatitis. Mary has always had heart concerns. She was not looking forward to the catheterization because the last time the doctor told her that he was just going to look around inside her, he found that he would have to install a stent to keep one of her arteries open. It would be no big deal, but when he got a look at the stent site he found that a stent wouldn't be possible and instead he would have to open her chest and take vein from her upper chest and move it in place so that it would bypass the blockage. That was a lot more than she bargained for. And though successful, she did not want to go through that trauma again. So it was with no small amount of trepidation that she approached her scheduled catheterization on Thursday morning. Her worst fear was that she

would have to undergo an open heart bypass again because of what the doctor as going to see with his scope. We were very scared of having to start another recovery just when she was nearing the end of the first recovery. We felt she was strong enough to handle the physical aspect of another procedure, but the emotional drain on both of us was nearly more than we could bear. The stress was making us treat each other badly, constantly sniping at each other and arguing incessantly over the merest transgression. Our realistic hope was that she would need a stent and the doctor would take care of that during the catheterization. If a stent was necessary, she would have to stay the night in the hospital. If no stent was necessary and he found nothing else that required further action, she could go home that same day.
Her cardiologist is a positive, sometimes overly cheerful, surgeon who always emphasizes the good that can happen and doesn't dwell on the possible adverse reactions in any medical procedure. So when he came bounding into the recovery room to tell me what had transpired and what the medical prognosis was, I knew it was good news just by his demeanor. He was fairly jumping up and down, clapping his hands and smiling broadly. He was so happy to say that there were no complications and nothing further needed to be done for her. No stent, no new meds. His only prescription for her was more exercise. Her heart is strong. She is back. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

jello and stuff

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, especially when it comes to what we should or shouldn’t eat.  So many of our favorite foods are simply not good for us. So many of the things we love to stuff in our mouths have no nutritional value at all.  And for some of us,  certain foods we like are difficult to eat as well.

Take Jello.  Please.  Today,for instance, my lunch included a rather healthy bowl full of that unhealthy concoction, artificially colored red and jiggling in the bowl.  The stuff is always jiggling.  I’m never sure if that is a benign attribute meant to amuse us and entice us to swallow large quantities of the stuff, or if all that shaking is a warning sign for the careless eater to beware of the danger that awaits once he dips a spoon into the quivering mass.

I decided at that time during my lunch to find out if Jello (Jello is the brand name we are all familiar with. Gelatin is what Jello is) was friend or foe, and if I should eat the helping of questionable foodstuff sitting in its bowl awaiting my decision. I figured a bit of easy research was all it would take.  So I started by reading the ingredient list on the box. Once I knew what that innocent looking little red box contained, I swore on my All American Cookbook that if I ever encountered any color or flavor of that disgusting, vile, alien substance anywhere near my dining table, I would attack it immediately, smiting it with my heaviest wooden spoon, then flinging it out the window before it could remove the paint from the walls. 

It appears that Jello, or gelatin in the vernacular, is made from collagen, a fibrous protein that is present in all of us in different amounts.  Collagen isn’t bad stuff.  It’s what we humans do to it after we’ve harvested it from those cows and pigs we see lying around the barnyard. Those cows and pigs and their bones and hides and connective tissues are ripped from the animals and dried out and eventually ground into a powder that is then mixed with all kinds of other shit that is swept off the floor, put into pretty boxes of red, orange, green and passed off to us, the unknowing, trusting consumer as a delicious special treat for all good little boys and girls.

I ask you, could you imagine eating that detritus from the other side of the River Styx if you knew its origins?  Pigskin is the most commonly used material to make gelatin. PIGSKIN!  Can you imagine willingly ingesting PIGSKIN and then asking for seconds?
I think we can all agree that even though it might taste good, that it might look all bright and jiggly, and that it is a sort of miracle that it was ever invented, its nutritional value is nil, and its usefulness as an edible material is suspect. From now on, Jello is a four letter word with an O on the end.

Just one more thing about Jello that makes all the more nasty and disgusting to certain people. My experience says that all that jiggling and shaking it is actually an evil ingredient inserted into each package of Jello just to make me and other wonderful people who have Parkinson Disease look silly when we try to maintain our dignity while trying to eat the elusive glob of slime.  Try eating a spoonful of quivering, slippery gelatin one time while your hands are shaking, your arms are fighting off the tremors that choose that exact moment to appear, and your head is bobbing like Stevie Wonder when he is in full concert rapture. It is nearly impossible to do. I know what it’s like when the slop keeps slipping off the spoon as you finally get it near enough to your mouth to give hope that you might really taste it this time.  Then one tremor too many sends it sliding down, down, down, leaving a sticky trail of red or orange or green from your once full spoon to the floor.  Try being dignified then, acting as if nothing unusual as happened. 

So please join me in foregoing any more Jello purchasing or eating in solidarity with nutritious dining, healthy natural foods, and PD people everywhere.  We can discuss what t do about the coffee dribbling down my chin some other time.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

hawks and chipmunks

 I have my favorite place to sit when I eat my breakfast or just want to relax and read.  This kitchen window I look out of allows me to survey both the near and far landscape: the hostas beneath my window that grow along the walkway to the far side of the lake where the trees are ablaze with Fall color.  My perch here at the kitchen table makes watching the changes that naturally occur as we progress through the seasons easy. It might not be the same as active participation in the outdoor fun, but vicarious thrills for me are more accessible and better than nothing. 

The lake naturally dominates the landscape. It is so expressive, showing me at a glance what the weather will be like when I step out the door. It can be calm as an aesthete deep in meditation, reflecting all its secrets back into the air above it, or it can be a wild and uncontrollable beast, roiling its surface with such ferocity that waves with whitecaps tumble toward shore in a frightening dance that keeps even the most avid fisherman ashore, lamenting the passing of another opportunity to be fooled by a fish.

The nearer view seen through that window incites a variety of responses, from annoyance to awe.  Awe is what I feel when the grasses and flowers I see through my window are in full bloom, swaying in the breeze, sweeping the air clean and leaving the fresh smell of newly born buds, soon to be flowers. The annoyance comes from looking at the thousand new tiny crabapples from the tree to my left that have fallen on the walkway and need to swept aside again for the third time that day.  Those tiny orbs make walking on the concrete walkway a frenetic game of hopscotch as we try to avoid dragging the pulp and juice of the stomped on fruit into the house on the soles of our newly red stained soles. But, however annoyed I feel by the crabapple mess, the chipmunks who live in my garden feel even stronger about the dietary bounty those miniature fruits provide.  They (I think there are more than one of them. I can’t really tell.  They all look the same to me and I’ve never sen more than one at a time) feast incessantly on the marble sized treats, leaving neat little piles of leftover bits and pieces on each corner of the stoop. Those cute (I know I’m not supposed to think of those furry destructive rodents who also chomp on my Hostas and tunnel throughout the garden as cute) striped squatters can be seen scurrying around, picking the best fruits for their constant nibbling, and leaving those little piles of detritus they’ve created for me to clean up.  Even though they are a nuisance, I still enjoy watching their industrious antics, marveling at how quickly they can be move. One second they are on the stoop licking their chops, the next second they have disappeared, diving under the mulch into their hidey holes. 

But contrary to what I want to think, my little slice of heaven is no Nirvana. A few days ago my slice of natural beauty outside my kitchen window was visited by the most incredibly frightening creature I have ever seen up close.  If the window that separated us from each other hadn’t been there, I would have joined those chipmunks  beneath the mulch, hoping that concealment would be enough to save my ass. Seemingly out of nowhere, a huge grey hawk swooped down and landed right in the middle of the crabapple strewn walkway.  He was no farther than ten feet from where I sat trying to feel safe with only a pane of glass protecting me.  He must have felt just as safe seeing me there looking at him, because he simply raised his head to get a better look around and ruffled his mottled gray and shiny black magnificent feathers with a ripple of muscles from his razor sharp beak to his highly honed talons. Then just as suddenly as he appeared, he took off with a leap into the air, circled around the tree and came back at me as if to break through the glass, grasp me with those awful talons, and drag me off to a quiet place where he could dine on me at his leisure.  But at the last second he turned his body sideways, giving me the full effect of his daunting prowess.  His wingspan had to be 4’ at least, or maybe I was so startled to see him come at me as he did, that I am giving him more than his due.  Seeing such an incredible natural killing machine so close that I could almost touch him, may be making me exaggerate a bit. But I would hate to be that close to him if he was hungry.  

It’s been a few days since the hawk entered my world. It seems somewhat quieter. There is less hustling around. The aura outside my kitchen window has become like the dimly flashing, far off leftover lightening after the thunder and wind and jagged bolts of furious energy has passed by, leaving the air still charged with possibility.  And I have noticed that either those chipmunks have gotten much neater (there has been no sweeping of the stoop where I expect to find piles of bits and pieces of tiny crabapples) or they have moved on. But I suspect  that hawk has something to do with their absence.

The moral of the story?  There is none.  That’s just the way it is.

Monday, September 21, 2015

diss and that

Here it is, Sunday evening, the Packers are playing (they just scored the first touchdown of the game), we had the obligatory pizza for supper, and our marriage is rapidly disintegrating.  Lately all we do is bicker and snipe at each other.  We spend way too much time together.

Swmbo (she who must be obeyed) has been riding my ass lately, giving orders and then supervising to make sure that her orders are carried out to her satisfaction. Still, even with her supervision, I can do nothing right despite following her instructions to the letter. So this is how our days bump along, jumping from one rut to the other on the uneven path we are living on.

“No, don’t put it there. I told you to put it over there.” Exasperation strained her voice.
Admittedly, I wasn’t listening when she told me where she wanted it. There was a football game on and it distracted me.

“What?! You don’t seriously expect to eat that on the couch, do you?” Incredulity caused the venom to dribble from the corner of her mouth. Not a pretty sight.
Well, yes, actually I do. And I will do my best to make a mess of it with lots of dripping, greasy pizza slop staining the couch in all the most obvious places just because it will piss you off. I was feeling particularly exasperated myself since I, anticipating her admonishment and being prepared for it, was carrying a large towel to cover my half of the couch and she had plopped herself on her half of the couch with nary a towel in sight.
I waved my towel in her face and before she could ask, told her to get her own damn towel.

“I told you to take the van. You know I just had the car washed and it’s raining.” Rain is her kryptonite when it affects her (actually our) car. She gets weak in the knees and nearly hyperventilates if there is a chance that her (actually our) car might get wet.
I was busy watching the neighbor lay new sod around his new patio in the rain when she gave me those instructions.  How could she possibly expect me to pay attention to her when I was so engrossed in the sod laying process?

“How many times do I have to tell you to turn off the lights downstairs when you come up here? She pointed an accusatory finger right between my eyes so there would be no doubt to whom she was talking.  
Ok, so I was in a hurry and had my hands full and something important (I forget what now) on my mind. It’s not like the power company is going to shut us off because I forgot to turn off the lights again.

“Did you put my tops (that’s “shirts” to those of the male persuasion) in the dryer again? If I’ve told you once I’ve told you a thousand times that you’re going to shrink them if you put them in the dryer. They have to be hung up to dry.” 
Oh, really? If that’s the case, then all your tops would have to be sewn together to cover you adequately, since I must have dried them those thousand times you told me not to and they are now the size of postage stamps. As long as I’m doing the laundry, those tops are going in the dryer.

You can see that all the time we spend together can breed some discontent with each other at times. We never really get mad. We just verbalIy snipe at each other when we sense an opening that will score some points in the game of life we have played with each other for all these many years. We know each other so well that we know what we can say without drawing blood and what not to say to avoid falling over the edge into No-No Land. 
We both have our little idiosynchrities that irritate us when used to light up the stage for the next act of Bob and Mary’s Great  Adventure.  

For instance, I have what my kids call my “Dad Voice”—gruff, emphatic, sometimes loud, sometimes nasty, and always with an attitude that says don’t mess with me. Swmbo (she loathes that name) hates that voice when I use it on her. It means I am always right even when I’m not, and will brook no contradiction, backtalk, sass or bullshit.  The Voice is incontrovertible and really annoying.  If she had The Voice on her side I would give up the argument immediately just so I wouldn’t have to listen to it for longer than it takes to draw a breath and utter the first few syllables. My two offspring have been irritrievibly scarred by hearing The Voice too often used when they were within earshot of it. I would never have used The Voice on them.  That would have been child abuse and I would be in jail and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
But she knows how to stick it to me too. If I start to get to of hand, she adopts her soothing the savage beast persona.She quietly, slowly, soothingly suggests that I take a deep breath or two and go to my happy place until I can manage to conduct myself properly to rejoin polite society.  Irritates the hell out of me. It makes her all superior and holier than thou.  The fact that she is almost always right when she whips that attitude adjustment bullshit on me doesn’t make it any easier to take.

Of course, with all the verbiage careening and colliding in No Mans Land between two prideful, clever, and competitive individuals thrown together on the battlefield that is marriage, there are the inevitable insults that sneak into the fray. I am much too gentlemanly to ever hurl an insult that would point out any perceived deficiency in her character or appearance or demeanor, or that might call into question her perfection in every aspect of her being. 

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for her. She never hesitates to point out my character flaws. Or what she considers character flaws. Misconduct on my part, that is, what she calls misconduct, but what I call joyful living, is a favorite target for her barbed tongue.  She can be quite creative and can sometimes insult me without my being aware that I have been dissed.  But  the subtle, sneaky, outflanking insults that at first seem innocent and harmless, that make you think before you can be sure that she got you again, are the worst. Those are the put downs that creep up on you after the words have faded away and the echo of the words is all that’s left.  Those are the ones that make you wonder if she meant what she said or if you even understood her. 

“Why did you cut the pizza into such big pieces,” she’ll ask. “You know I like  small pieces. I like everything small.” she’ll say with a smirk and a slight emphasis on small. “ Everything.”

Ouch. I think.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


I was just putzing around in the kitchen, rearranging the salt and pepper shakers so that they looked more like pepper and salt shakers, getting the spices in proper alphabetical order, and wiping off the counters so the crumbs you could see there, and which felt gritty, were only a nuisance on the floor where they crunched under my shoes until they sounded and felt like the sand in the neighbors sandbox.  I have probably done the same thing a thousand times.  I like things neat (I’ll get to cleaning the crunchy floor in short order) and in place.  Doing that arranging and wiping fills a basic need that I just can’t ignore. So there I am, satisfying that primal need when my reverie was disturbed by a shriek that, at that moment, was more primal than my need, which is to say, blood curdling and otherworldly.

Luckily I avoided wetting myself from the shock because I recognized where the scream was coming from.  I’ve heard similar sounds in the past when Mary needs to get my attention or has a bug buzzing up her tutu.  This time her outcry was aimed at me.  
“What are you doing, you idiot? What rag are you using?”  She was out of control over what she saw in my hand. “That’s my (oxymoron alert) GOOD RAG!  You only use that on the counters and nothing else, you moron.  You never listen to me (mostly true). You just grab whatever is handy without thinking about what you’re doing. I’ve told you a million times that that is an (oxymoron alert) EXPENSIVE RAG and now you’ve probably ruined it.”
“I thought it was just a rag.” I answered. “It looks just like all the other rags around here.” I was so surprised by her reaction to my innocent use of a RAG, that I failed to come up with a suitably trenchant retort.  
“This RAG is sacred.  You are not allowed to use it ever again.”  She snatched it from my hand and ritually draped it carefully on the towel bar.

“Sacred?”  I was dumbfounded by that.  “Why is it sacred?  Did Jesus wipe his ass with it or something?” I may have gone too far with that last question. But you all know, don’t you, that I was referring to the donkey that Jesus used to haul his carpenter’s tools from job to job.  Mary, however, is convinced that I now have a place all ready and waiting for me in the hottest corner of hell.  And not necessarily for my blasphemy, but more likely for my misuse of that sacred RAG.

deja vu

Deja vu all over again.  Here I am once again sitting sitting in a hospital waiting area, slouched in an over-stuffed chair that threatens to swallow me whole if I should happen to fall into blissful sleep.  This particular waiting area is dedicated to those who need a dose of radiation for one reason or another. This is one of the last stops on Mary’s journey to wellness.

Mary is here for a scan of her stomach to determine if there has been sufficient healing inside that mysterious vault to allow the last drain tube to be yanked out without any new problems occurring. We are keeping or fingers crossed.

If all goes well with this step, then the next step will be t remove the stent that was inserted to handle the bile drainage from her gallbladder.  We are impatiently waiting for the doctor to decide if we can do that tomorrow, or if more time is needed to ensure that the stent has served its purpose.

Whoa, Trigger, I think I hear the unmistakeable sound of our Texan surgeon returning to the corral.  Yep, pardner, that is the clicking of the high heeled cowboy boots he likes to wear. I hope he left the spurs in the bunkhouse today.  Later......

Tex rode in a white stallion, so he had to be bringing good news.  They won’t let just anyone ride the Good Guy horse while wearing the 10 gallon white hat that put the emphasis on the good news he brought along with him.  The tube was ready to come out and he was ready, willing, and able to do just that right then. You remember how I was worried that the tube might remove itself while I was flushing it out and I would have all sorts of trouble getting the job done?  Nothing to worry about.  I could have wrestled that puppy to the ground without breaking a sweat. All that was left of the tube was a piece about the size of the drinking straw in my bottle of Gatorade. But however it made its exit, I am happy to say that we are now tubeless.

One more return to the hospital tomorrow to remove the aforementioned stent, and we can start living normally again.Of Course, there will still be some pain to deal with, but knowing that this is the homestretch with the finish line sight, will make that pain disappear a lot quicker.

hoping the end is here

We never thought the day would get here when we could say we made it over the hump and came sliding down the other side.  Since last March Mary has been battling heroically against all the stomach problems that were piled in her way--her gallbladder was removed, then pancreatitus took over, then infections tried to bring her down, and always the pain, the sometimes excruciating pain couldn’t defeat her.  Today the last little bit of cleanup was done by the surgeon.  He then declared her the winner of this fight that seemed like it would never end.  

Of course we will have to be vigilantly watching for signs of infection returning.  But the worst is over.  Now her doctor has prescribed normal activity, normal eating, normal exercise, normal everything.  Never before have I thought that “normal” was anything to rave about, but, let me tell you, it sounds like heaven to me now. 

It’s time to start living and laughing again. We will do or best.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mary Time

“Come on, let’s go,” I was yelling from the running car in the driveway, trying to get Mary to move her late-for-everything ass, “we’re going to be late as usual.”

“Sorry. I was on hold with Medicare, trying to find out why I owe $490.00 for meds that they said they gave me in the ER,” she explained in her most irate taking-care-of-business voice.

“Did you bother to look at the clock during that frivolous waste of time? You know how I hate to be late for anything, especially doctors’ appointments.” I was whining  I know, but what else could I do? I know for sure that after letting her get away with tormenting me with her lack of timeliness for the past 46 years, I wasn’t about to change her behavior.

“Whenever we have to be somewhere, you start to operate on Mary Time, which bears no resemblance to real time,” I chided her. I was just in a bad mood and looking to pick a fight so we would have something to do during the 40 minute drive to the doctor’s office. 

“You’ve never been on time for anything in your life,” I poked at the hornet’s nest sitting on top of her shoulders. ”And you passed that time-altering gene on to Carrie, whose sense of time is otherworldly,” I reminded her with a little twist of the stiletto.
( Carrie Time is either the most advanced time telling method or the least developed.  Either way, she takes after her mother, who has raised time telling and management to an art, or a handicap for which there is no therapy.)

“”I always get where I have to be, and that’s all that matters,” she responded calmly, not taking the bait.

“Sure you do,” I agreed, “but you’re either a day early or a day late.  Half the time you don’t know what day of the week it is, let alone the date.” I was feeling it now. Unfortunately, her mind was still on that  $490.00 that she would never pay if she could help it, so the argument I was hoping for disappeared into the fog between us.

While she fumed and steamed silently over the injustice of that bill, I tried to engage her in a discussion of the etiquette of timeliness. I tried to explain that it was a show of respect to arrive on time for appointments. 

“Yeah, and when was the last time a doctor respected your time by taking you at the time of your appointment?”  She effectively ended that discussion.  

She then shifted gears and reminded me that she had, more important to her, a coupon for “buy one entree get one entree free” on any Wednesday in August at one of our favorite restaurants.  She had been all excited about that freakin’ coupon ever since it arrived in the mail a few days ago. Mary takes great delight in getting something for nothing, so a coupon that promised a freebie was like manna from heaven.  She had it all figured out.  We would be finished at the doctor’s office by about 4:30 which would give us just the right amount of time to get to the restaurant, take advantage of that coupon, and still get home in time to watch AGT.  I had to admit that the timing seemed like it would work, even if it was arranged in Mary Time.  

Amazingly enough we stuck to the schedule and we were seated in the restaurant right on time.  I had the temerity to believe that this just might be a huge breakthrough in Mary’s grasp of real time.  For a moment I entertained the notion that my life would be different from now on, always being on time with no more shouting from me to “move it!” 

Then the waitress appeared.  Before she had a chance to ask if we wanted something to drink, Mary was waving that precious coupon at her like a victory flag, announcing that we intended to take advantage of the coupon’s promised offer.

The waitress looked at her with an expression that could only be described as pity, and quashed any possibility of a victory dance to go along with the flag waving by kindly pointing out, as if to a child being told the truth about the Easter Bunny, that today was Tuesday.

Mary Time lives on.